California Sealion - Zalophus californianus californianus
coasts, rarely venture more than 10 miles out to sea; frequently haul out on shore throughout the year
west coast of North America from British Columbia south to Baja California and the Sea of Cortez; another population occurs along the coasts of Japan (whose population was believed to be hunted to extinction) and Korea; a third separate population occurs in the Galapagos Islands
active at all times of the day
They have noticeable external ears (seals do not have). The forehead is raised on the male of the species and there is a large size difference between male and females. They have flippers (hind flippers can be rotated forward and under the animal for better locomotion on land - seals cannot do this). They also have very long whiskers.
Weight: males 600-800 pounds and up to 1000 pounds, females 200 pounds, newborns 13 pounds. Length: males up to 8 feet with females around 6 feet long.
California sea lions are sociable and live and breed in large colonies that may number in the thousands.
15 - 25 years
California Sea lions eat octopus, squid and small fish; hunting mostly by sight. They feed in the ocean and haul out at intervals to rest on the shore. An average sized captive California sea lion must consume about 5-8% of its body weight in food every day.
Male California sea lions become sexually mature at 9 years of age and females at 6 - 8 years. The breeding season in North America is May - June but in the Galapagos it is October - December. Males establish harems of females and their young soon after the young are born. Females mate about 3 weeks after giving birth. The gestation period is 342 - 365 and females regularly delay the implantation of fertilized eggs so birth coincides with abundant food supplies. The pups are born in breeding grounds, called rookeries, which are situated on beaches and offshore islets. The pups are taught to swim within a few hours of birth and suckle for about 6 months. The young form pods of 5 - 200 individuals which move and play together. The mothers find their young by vocalizing and using sight and smell. The males do not have time to feed during the breeding season and must survive on their reserve of blubber. Males may breed with 30-40 females in one season depending on his size.
The California sea lion population in North America has rebounded from overhunting and is not protected and stable. In 1938, there were 2,020 individuals along the whole California coast, by 1967 the number had increased to 40,000 and by 1987 the estimate was at 74,000. The population in the Galapagos Islands is estimated at 20,000 - 50,000 with recent declines due to an epidemic in the 1970s and a food supply decline in 1982- 1983 due to El Niño. A subspecies in the Sea of Japan may be extinct because of persecution by fishermen. IUCN Red List considers their status as "Least Concern" and are part of an AZA Species Survival Plan.
- California sea lions can dive to depths of nearly 1000 feet which is the height of the Eiffel Tower.
- In the water, sea lions use their front flippers to propel themselves through the water.
- The back flippers are used like rudders. On land, the flippers are used like legs.
- There are 14 species of sea lions. They are members of the pinniped family which means “feather foot”.
- Calls include barks, roars and yelps.
- California sea lions can swim at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. They cruise at 11 mph.
- Sea lions are known as eared seals because they have small external ear flaps unlike seals which only have ear openings.
- Males defend their territories on land and in water. When defending underwater territory, their barks send up chains of bubbles as warnings.
- When entering the water, the sea lion dives in head-first often in a group of 20 – 30 individuals.
- The ears and nostrils close underwater.
- Sea lions can remain underwater for 10-15 minutes before surfacing to breathe. They can slow their heart rate to allow them to stay underwater longer.
- While on land sea lions may walk slowly, move at a rapid gallop or stride over smooth surfaces using only the front flippers.
- They float on the surface of the water in small groups called “rafts.”
- Killer whales and Great white sharks are their natural enemies. Man is a large threat with pollution and net entanglement.
- Their eyes tear (water) to clean them of salt and impurities.
AZA cooperatively manages this species as a Species Survival Plan® Program.
- Adult (13 and over)$9.00
- Children (3 - 12)$5.25
- Children (2 and under)Free
- Seniors (65+)$8.00
We begin transferring animals to evening (off exhibit) holding at 4:30 each night.
Open Daily 10:00-5:00
Last admission at 4:30